Mapping the field of medical sociology: a comparative analysis of journals


Address for correspondence: Clive Seale, School of Social Sciences, Brunel University, Uxbridge UB8 3PH, UK e-mail:


A comparative keyword analysis of the content of nine leading journals is used to suggest potential new directions for medical sociology. The major British and American journals in sociology and medical sociology tend to publish authors based in their own countries, contrasting with the internationalism of other social science disciplines relevant to health, although Sociology of Health and Illness is an exception to this. Medical sociology journals on both sides of the Atlantic focus on individual experience more than general sociology journals, which focus more on social systems levels of analysis. While journal contents reveal British medical sociology to be relatively atheoretical when compared with British general sociology journals, American medical sociology appears relatively apolitical on the same comparison with American general journals. American journals of sociology publish more quantitative studies than their British equivalents, more studies concerning race and other social divisions in American society, and less work drawing on social constructionist perspectives or that is engaged with social theory. Analysis of health and health care at societal and global levels and a deeper engagement with the political and public issues that concern non-sociologists represents a possible future for a medical sociology that is internationally relevant and outward looking.